When discussing the subject of memory with friends and colleagues, I have found that people generally find remembering numbers – particularly long-digit numbers – very difficult.
This is not surprising, when you consider the fact that in our culture numbers are represented by nothing more than simple, unimaginative shapes. What is required then, to make numbers more memorable entities, is for us to transform these unimaginative shapes into imaginative, and thus memorable images. ‘If you can visualise something, then memorising it is a simple thing.’
For example, if you think of the word ‘supermarket’ then you should have absolutely no difficulty at all in visualising what a supermarket is. You may see an image of endless rows of shelves and shopping trolleys, or you might even see the outside of the building - complete with car park.
The thing is that everyone, or at least everybody in the western world, has a very clear mental image of what a supermarket is. If however, you think of the umber 86, then unless that particular number has a certain personal significance to you. For example, if you have an 86 year old grandmother, or your address is 86, then you will have a problem visualising this number in any kind of a memorable way.
So what can be done about this unfortunate state of affairs?
Well actually quite a lot can be done. In fact in a couple of pages down the line, I will explain a technique known as ‘Pegging,’ that has been developed over the course of the last few centuries, which will enable you to memorise long-digit numbers of up to 100 digits (with practice maybe even more), having read through them only once.
But for now I would just like to outline a straight-forward technique, known as the number-rhyming method, that should make remembering numbers of up to about ten digits or so, a relatively simple procedure. I will now outline the details of this technique.
The number/rhyming system
The technique of number/rhyming is a simple one to master. All that it consists of, is transforming a number that you wish to remember, into a form that can be easily visualised.
You may accomplish this task by breaking your number down into its constituent digits, and then transforming these digits into a set of images, that happen to rhyme with those single digits.
To show you precisely what I mean, I have listed a simple number/image code below, together with a few examples of how it may be put to use.
Zero is Snow
Number One is Sun
Number Two is Shoe
Number Three is Sea
Number Four is Door
Number Five is Hive
Number Six is Sticks
Number Seven is Heaven
Number Eight is Gate
Number Nine is Mine
Now if you wanted to remember the number 74, then using the above list of images, all that you would need to do would be to link together the image for the number 7 ‘Heaven,’ to the image for the number 4 ‘Door.’ In of course an imaginative and thus memorable way.
For example, you could see yourself opening your front door and being faced by a flight of angels. Or you could see yourself knocking on the door to heaven. Both of these are memorable, and should (if you have learned the above set of images), immediately bring to your mind the numbers 7 and 4.
If you wanted to commit to memory the number 592, then all that you would need to do would be to link together the words Hive, Mine and Shoe. To accomplish this task, you might imagine a huge beehive in the dark and dusty tunnels of a Coalmine.
Try to see the miners running around the tunnels, attempting to ward off the bees by swiping at them with their shoes. This is an amusing – and thus a memorable image. If the number that you wanted to remember were 4830, then the images that you would be required to link together would be Door, Gate, Sea and Snow. This could be done by imagining an enormous door, behind which is a gate. See this gate
opening to reveal an infinitely wide expanse of open sea, in the middle of which stands a giant snowman. Complete with a pipe and hat (to make the image that bit more memorable). The above images should be sufficiently vivid to be retained by the average persons memory.
For my final example I have chosen the number 1624. This number may be recalled by simply linking together the four images – Sun, Sticks, Shoe and Door. This is easily done by visualising the sun pouring forth a torrent of sticks (instead of rays of light).
These sticks then land in an enormous shoe. A shoe that has built into its side a large door. This set of images should immediately remind an individual who is familiar with the system of number/rhyming, of the number 1624.
Uses of the system
The uses that the system of number/rhyming may be put to are countless. For example, you could use the system to memorise an address. This is done by simply linking your number images, to the face of the individual whose address you wish to recall. Alternatively if you have difficulty in visualising the persons face, then you could try linking the number to a creative version of their name. See How to remember names and faces for a more comprehensive explanation of how this may be done.
You could use the system to remember the prices of items on a shopping list. This is accomplished by simply linking the prices of the items (in number-rhyme form), to an image of the item that you wish to purchase.
You may choose to use the system to memorise a particular list, in numerical order, to remember times, dates and/or abstract numbers. You could also use the system to memorise mathematical formulae, arithmetical calculations, and/or measurements. I could go on and on, but I think that you probably understand the general idea!